This is the translated chapter of a book available online in Portuguese, “Brazil 2016 – Recession and Coup” published by the Perseu Abramo Foundation, reporting on some of the tricks and illegalities that were used to overthrow the then President, Dilma Rousseff.
My intention in publishing this article is to promote understanding of what is going on in Brazil now, by giving an explanation in part of how we got here. It shows that there was deliberate effort against the project for the country implemented by the Worker’s Party (PT) and how this relates to the imprisonment without evidence of Lula, the President of Brazil prior to this coup. This imprisonment has been done in order that he not be able to stand in the national elections again in October of this year, where he is clear favourite in the opinion polls, with more votes than all other contenders combined.
The full list of chapters is as follows:
Political Crisis of Alliances and the Construction of Public Opinion
Construction of Coup
The Programmatic Agreement
The International and Regional Picture
Report of the Facts and Plots to Oust President Dilma Rousseff
The Coup Against the State
The Anti-social Policy
The Economic Policy
The Coup d’État Against Regional Development
The Political Struggle After The Coup
Report of the Facts and Plots to Oust President Dilma Rousseff
On the 2nd of December 2015, the then President of the Congress in Brazil, Eduardo Cunha, of PMDB party for Rio de Janeiro, authorized the opening of the impeachment process of President Dilma Rousseff. The coup was thus formally begun, which was to be consummated on the 31st of August 2016, with the final voting in the Federal Senate, culminating in the definitive removal of the elected President. This chapter relates the succession of facts that led to that result, demonstrating the putschist offensive and the consequent overthrow of the democratically elected government.
FROM THE ACCEPTANCE OF THE IMPEACHMENT PROCESS THROUGH TO THE SETTING IN MOTION OF THE PROCESS IN THE CHAMBER
The month of December 2015 showed the outline of how the coup against President Dilma Rousseff would be. The leadership of Eduardo Cunha (PMDB) in this effort became evident, from the acceptance of the impeachment through the most diverse attempts at manoeuvres in favour of the process, demonstrating his activity as President of the Lower House as determinant in weakening the Dilma government and for the consummation of the coup. The tone was set for the coup attempt by the PMDB and by Michel Temer, as well as the media, and the most diverse interventions by the Supreme Federal Court (STF) in the process.
The President of the Lower House, who had already received various motions for impeachment from the opposition, himself had a process underway against him in the Council of Ethics for having lied in the Commission of Inquiry into Petrobras when he affirmed not to have accounts abroad1. Bargaining for his political survival, he blackmailed the Worker’s Party (PT) caucus within the Council, but they did not accept his proposal and declared their vote in favour of his disenfranchisement. On the same day, Cunha accepted the motion for impeachment filed by Janaina Paschoal, Miguel Reale Junior and Hélio Bicudo. The justification for this motion, a process which in accordance with the Federal Constitution requires proof that the person has committed the crime non-compliance, accused the President of the Republic of acting against the Law of Fiscal Responsibility and the attributions of the Executive by delaying the passing of funds from the State banks and that these funds were used in the Budget without authorization from the National Congress, the charge merely being the excuse for the coup being plotted.
Less than one week afterwards, a letter was published from the then Vice-President Michel Temer to Dilma Rousseff breaking off their relationship. Temer, who months before had left the post of political articulator in the government, declared in his letter that he felt like a “decorative Vice-President”, affirming to the President that she “had no confidence in myself and the PMDB, now and will not have tomorrow”. The loyalty Temer attributed to himself and to the PMDB was not sustained by the facts, with the right to launch a plan for government through the foundation of the party, called the “Temer Plan”, the document “A Bridge to the Future” (Fundação Ulysses Guimarães, 2015). The party had been divided for some time around the support for Dilma Rousseff2, with intense pressure for more posts and ministries, always attended to by the government. Meanwhile, Temer intensified his talks with the putschist opposition. According to the newspaper O Estado de S. Paulo, Temer had left the post of political articulator in the Dilma government in August 2015, to come closer to the opposition and the right-wing PSDB party and to guarantee support for a future government (O Estado de S. Paulo, 2015). Thus, it became clear that the Vice-President’s intention was to conspire against the voting alliance he had been part of and against the programme on which it was elected.
The day after the letter was published, there was the first attempt at manoeuvring by Eduardo Cunha in favour of the impeachment, as well as the first interference by the Federal Supreme Court in the process: in articulation with the opposition, Cunha opened a gap for dissident Congressmen within his own party to form an alternative alliance indicated by the caucus leadership. This enabled a distortion, which meant that the Special Commission that would analyze the motion to be with a pro-coup majority, which did not reflect the composition of the House at that time, as the government still had a sufficient majority to block the process. In reaction to the manoeuvre, the Communist Party of Brazil (PCdoB) filed a suit in the Supreme Court questioning the whole method of formation of the Commission, which included a secret vote, division of the commission into blocks and not into parties, as well as the absence of indication of leadership by the caucuses. The action was received by the Justice Edson Fachin, who suspended the impeachment process for definition of the whole set of rules and formalities that regulated the process. Thus, the composition of the commission as articulated by Cunha was annulled.
In less than ten days, the Supreme Federal Court defined what the procedure was to be adopted during the impeachment process of President Dilma Rousseff. Thus, the process in Congress was to be run according to the following rules: otherwise than as articulated by Cunha, the Impeachment Commission was to be chosen through the sole ballot sheet indicated by the party leaders, with open voting. After the setting up, Dilma would have ten sessions to defend herself, and the final report was to be voted on after five sessions, and afterwards by the plenary. If approved by the House, the Senate would decide on continuing the process or otherwise, removing the President in the former case. After the removal, a judgement would be begun by the Senators to define the definitive condemnation or absolution. Despite the formal definitions of the impeachment procedure, the Supreme Court did not judge the merits, i.e. the veracity of the facts about coup, providing a false air of legality to condemn a President who had not committed any crime of responsibility.
In the midst of such a huge impasse, with the Legislature going into recess, the government replaced the Minister of Finance, Joaquim Levy, for the then Minister of Planning, Nelson Barbosa, as a way of reverting the economic situation, damaged after the fiscal adjustment. Only in February 2016 was the impeachment to be given a new look after Congress appealed against the definition of the procedure in the full Supreme Court, adding further delays to the process. Thus, a breach was opened for further damage to the government, with its support base diminishing and the votes that would have guaranteed its survival migrating little by little to the opposition, with intense efforts by Temer and his allies negotiating posts and ministries in the composition of his future putschist government.
In the three months it took to define the procedure setting up the Commission in the House, the putschists spared no efforts to damage the legitimate government: the media operations concerning the Operation Lava Jato were intensified with the clear purpose of attacking and sabotaging the Dilma government, the Worker’s Party and ex-President Lula, as will be explained further. With all the pyrotechnics at their disposal, the marketer João Santana and his wife were imprisoned, whilst the media published on magazine covers, in their headlines and prime time reports the contents of the illegal leaking of the plea bargain by ex-Senator Delcidio do Amaral, filled with unfounded accusations. In the midst of this huge attack by the putschists, large demonstrations were organized against the government and in favour of impeachment, which according to the opinion poll studies carried out by Perseu Abramo Foundation Public Opinion and Studies Nucleus, were far from representing the “people”, as people within their number and enthusiasts bragged. According to the studies, those present were mostly men (54%), white (70%) and upper-middle class (68% earned more than five times the minimum wage), a profile quite distinct from the Brazilian population (Perseu Abramo Foundation, 2016). Nevertheless, recordings were later published in a report on the UOL portal of one of the leaders of Movimento Brasil Livre (MBL) in which it was affirmed that the group obtained funding for these demonstrations from political parties such as DEM, PSDB and PMDB. At the time, the PMDB had not yet officially split from the Dilma government. According to the report:
“The movement also negotiated financial assistance with the PSDB Youth for their logistics, such as payment of food and rental of buses, and was supported by DEM ‘party machinery’. […] The PMDB had paid for the printing of leaflets for the MBL to publicize the pro-impeachment demonstrations that took place on March 13th.” (UOL, 2016)
The joint action by the various putschist forces united around the overthrow of the democratically elected government was decisive in advancing the impeachment process, and this became evident during March 2016. Prior to the protests, on March 4th, the most media savvy operation up to that point was carried out during the 24th phase of Lava Jato: ex-President Lula was coercitively arrested to make a statement at the Federal Police (PF), without him ever having refused to make a statement. Lula, who was one of the principal targets of the putschist front within the Judiciary and investigatory bodies, the Federal Police and Public Prosecutor Office, was confronted by many cameras and journalists already primed and waiting to record the occasion. The reaction from supporters, however, intensified the struggle in the social movement sectors against the coup, generating greater mobilization against the coup on March 18th. According to Datafolha, about 95,000 people gathered to defend democracy in São Paulo.
In the midst of such turbulence, after the Supreme Federal Court denied an appeal from Congress, the impeachment was allowed to proceed in Congress. With the aim of strengthening the political articulation of the government in relation to members of the Legislature, President Dilma announced the nomination of ex-President Lula as her Cabinet Chief of Staff on March 16th. However, the putschist front immediately reacted in one of the most lamentable episodes in Brazilian republican history: Sergio Moro, the first instance judge responsible for Operation Lava Jato, published a recording of a telephone conversation between the President and Lula on the prime time Globo network national news, in which they were arranging the details of the swearing in of the ex-President as a new minister. The recordings were widely disseminated and the media dedicated to constructing the narrative that the aim of the nomination was to provide legal immunity to Lula, i.e. the right to be judged solely in the highest instances of the Judiciary. Immediately, putschist sectors of the right-wing took to the streets to protest against the nomination in an automatic and hardly spontaneous manner. With the argument that this was a distortion of its purpose, a federal judge suspended the swearing in of Lula as a Minister, and this position was reinforced the next day by Supreme Court Justice Gilmar Mendes, who in a injunction ruled to accept the motion by the PSDB and PPS parties. Nevertheless, the recordings were of a conversation with the President and made without judicial authorization. Afterwards, Judge Moro apologized to the Federal Supreme Court for the publishing of the recording.
Such concern from Judge Sergio Moro in leaking facts to the media was not repeated a few days later. After the leaking of a spreadsheet from the engineering company Odebrecht, one of the leading ones investigated in Operation Lava Jato, which contained many politicians benefiting from large amounts of money, including many names from the opposition and from the putschist front, when he decreed judicial secrecy so as not to generate “premature conclusions”.
In the same week, the Bar Association of Brazil (OAB) filed another motion for impeachment in the House, joining the group of entities calling for the coup, notably led by the National Confederation of Industry (CNI), the Federation of Industries of the State of São Paulo (Fiesp), the Federation of Industries of the State of Rio de Janeiro (Firjan), the National Confederation of Commerce of Goods, Services and Tourism (CNC), the National Confederation of Transport (CNT), the Agriculture and Stock Confederation of Brazil (CNA) Força Sindical, amongst others. One day after the position taken by the OAB, on the 23rd of March 2016, the PMDB announced their official breaking with the Dilma Rousseff government.
As a counterpart to the impeachment of Dilma, the progressive wing filed two motions for impeachment against Michel Temer in April. After the recusal of Cunha in opening the process, the Federal Supreme Court intervened and Justice Marco Aurelio obliged the President of the Congress to set up the commission to analyze the impeachment of the then Vice-President. One of the motions was filed by Cid Gomes, of the PDT party. By the end of 2016 the process against Temer had gone nowhere. In the same week, the rapporteur of the impeachment process in the House Special Commission, Deputy Jovair Arantes of the Brazilian Worker’s Party of Goias (PTB-GO) gave his report in favour of impeachment process being heard.
In the same week, the then Federal Attorney-General, Jose Eduardo Cardozo, filed the defence, demonstrating that the process had been faulty from the start in being motivated by personal vengeance by the President of Congress, Eduardo Cunha. Cardozo also tried unsuccessfully to obtain a ruling against the impeachment in the Federal Supreme Court, which refused to interfere on the merits of the process. On the same day as the report was approved by the Commission by 38 votes to 27, a recording was published of the Vice-President Michel Temer talking as if the impeachment had already passed, causing embarrassment and demonstrating that that there never was any option, and that the coup was already taken as a given for some time. Little by little, the parties were leaving the support base of the Dilma government and were adding their voice for her impeachment, despite all the efforts to maintain a minimum of support that would guarantee the 172 votes against the coup. Temer and his allies, including Ministers and ex-Ministers of Dilma, negotiated behind the scenes bargaining for posts and indications to ensure the coup would pass with ease.
On April 17th 2016, in the longest session in the history of the Congress, Brazil watched a horror show on national TV, with the impeachment being approved by 367 votes to 137, and was then sent to the Federal Senate. Transmitted on the national TV networks, mobilizing those in favour and against the coup, lamentable scenes were shown, with votes in favour of the impeachment being justified by the most absurd reasons: Jair Bolsonaro, for example, then deputy of the Social Christian Party for Rio de Janeiro (PSC-RJ), dedicated his vote to Colonel Brilhante Ustra, a notorious torturer in the military dictatorship who had committed abuses against President Dilma Rousseff herself in the period when she was imprisoned and tortured by the regime. Innumerable deputies dedicated their vote to family members, to political friends and even to God. Deputy Raquel Muniz, of the Social Democratic Party for Minas Gerais (PSD-MG) dedicated her vote to her husband, Ruy Muniz, then Mayor of Montes Claros, highlighting his supposed ethics and example of good management. The day after the voting, he was arrested and imprisoned by the Federal Police. Cases such as this demonstrated the absence of worth and the type of person who helped oust a democratically elected President.
In the middle of the voting on the impeachment, with the Dilma government’s base of support in ruins, a new coalition of parties was formed who remained completely faithful to the government in the voting, consisting of the Worker’s Party (PT), the Communist Party of Brazil (PCdoB) and the Socialism and Liberty Party (PSOL). Another party which supported the government in the voting was the Democratic Worker’s Party (PDT), with 63.2% of their votes against the impeachment.
Besides the opposition led by the Brazilian Social Democracy Party (PSDB), with 100% of votes in favour of the coup, various parties making up the allied opposition base supported the impeachment en masse: the Brazilian Republican Party (PRB), 100% of votes for impeachment; Brazilian Democratic Movement Party (PMDB), 88.1%; Progressive Party (PP), 84.6%; Social Democratic Party (PSD), 78.4%; Brazilian Worker’s Party (PTB), 70%; Republican Social Order Party (PROS), 66.7%; Republic Party (PR), 65%. All these headed Ministries and actively took part in the government they helped overthrow. Such positions made up a new support base which would work for the future putschist government of Michel Temer.
THE IMPEACHMENT IN THE SENATE: REMOVAL, INTERIM GOVERNMENT AND CONSUMMATION OF THE COUP
After the voting on April 17th 2016, the impeachment proceeded to the Federal Senate, delivered by hand by the President of Congress, Eduardo Cunha, to the President of the Senate, Renan Calheiros, PMDB Senator for Alagoas. In accordance with the formal procedure, after having received it the Senate would have 48 hours for the parties to indicate their representatives to the Special Commission for Impeachment to draw up a report which, if favourable and if approved, would decide whether the legislature would open the process against Dilma Rousseff or not.
The Commission consisted of 21 Senators, and ten days after being set up would have to decide on the admissibility of the impeachment process, to be voted in plenary session, requiring only a simple majority (41 votes) of all the Senators. During these ten days, the sides for the prosecution and the defence would be responsible for trying to convince the Senators of their arguments. However, the process was clearly already defined before being set in motion, without the right to a full defence. The putschists were already disposed to overthrow Dilma at any cost, without hearing the defence and without abiding to the charges. The rapporteur chosen, for example, was Senator Antonio Anastasia of the PSDB-MG, a notorious ally of Senator Aecio Neves, one of the leaders of the opposition and defeated candidate in the 2014 elections. The selectivity and partiality of the judgement was laid bare when Senator Randolfe Rodrigues, of the Sustainability Network (Rede) of Amapa, questioned the accuser Janaina Paschoal about the content of the budgetary decrees emitted by Michel Temer, without mentioning that he had signed them as Vice-President, identical to those which were the basis used to accuse Dilma of committing the crime of responsibility. Paschoal, who had affirmed there was no legal basis for any move to impeach the putschist Vice-President, responded to Rodrigues that such decrees were a crime and should be punished with impeachment, to which Randolfe responded: “You have just given the very reasons by which the impeachment of Vice-President Michel Temer should also be proceeded. What I have just described were acts carried out by the Vice-President” (Folha de S. Paulo, 2016), to the embarrassment of Janaina.
In the midst of voting on the report, a new fact emerged: Justice Teori Zavascki of the Federal Supreme Court ruled on an injunction and stripped Eduardo Cunha of his parliamentary mandate and removed him from the Presidency of the Congress on May 5th 2016. This intervention was in response to a motion filed by the Attorney-General Rodrigo Janot in December. The delay seen in this motion of almost six months led to discontent when compared with the speed with which the Supreme Court dealt with cases that deeply affected the government, such as defining the impeachment procedure in less than a fortnight, or suspending the nomination of Lula to Chief of Staff in less than two days. Such delay, allowed Cunha to exercise his influence and power to manoeuvre the whole impeachment process in favour of the putschist side led by him and by Michel Temer. According to Janot, in the motion filed, Cunha used his post to obstruct investigations and to intimidate those involved in the process. After his removal, the Presidency of the lower house of Congress was occupied by Waldir Maranhão, from the PP party of Maranhão.
When he took on the Presidency of the Congress, something which surprised everyone, Waldir Maranhão annulled all the impeachment sessions in the House, attending to the motion from the Attorney-General of the Republic (AGU). According to the AGU, the parties could not have oriented the caucus Congressmen to vote, and the defence should have spoken last in the session. However, one day later, Waldir did an about turn and the impeachment continued as normal.
In the Senate, the report had been approved on May 6th, and on the 11th the session was opened to approve the opening of the impeachment process against Dilma by 55 votes in favour and 22 against, removing the President from exercising her mandate for up to 180 days. The party lines seen in the lower house was practically repeated: only the Senators for the PT, PCdoB and Rede voted in their blocks against the impeachment. Whereas the one-time allies gave massive support in favour, giving rise to intense negotiation behind the scenes with Temer and his supporters: of the 19 PMDB Senators, 13 voted to remove Dilma. All six from the PP, four from PR, one from PRB, as well as part of the PSD caucuses (three of four) and PDT (two of three) also voted to have Dilma descend the ramp of the Planalto Palace.
With the removal, Dilma made a declaration to the press denouncing the coup d’etat she was undergoing. According to the President:
“Ever since I was elected, part of the opposition who were unable to accept it, have asked for a recount of the votes, have tried to annul the elections and afterwards openly conspired for my impeachment. They have immersed the country in a permanent state of political instability, impairing the recovery of the economy with a single objective: to take by force what they were unable to win at the ballot box. My government has been the target of intense and unceasing sabotage. The obvious objective has been to impede me from governing, and thus to bring about an environment propitious for the coup. When the mandate of an elected President is withdrawn, on the charge of a crime they have not committed, the name given to this in a democratic world is not impeachment, it is a coup.” (Rousseff, 2016)
Dilma was also emphatic in demonstrating the absence of any crime of responsibility and the consequent injustice. In the same speech, the President stressed that she had never been complacent about corruption and that the administrative acts that her opponents used as an excuse to open a process of impeachment followed the rules established for the drawing up of budgetary supplementation decrees 3.
As a result, on the same day as Vice-President Michel Temer announced his Cabinet and took on the interim Presidency. In his team there were only white men, with no women or negroes in Ministerial posts, with cuts in fundamental areas with the loss of status of Ministry or incorporation into other portfolios such as Culture, Secretariat for Women, Racial Equality, Agricultural Development, Science and Technology, Social Security, among others. Included in those nominated, in betrayal of the programme and the electoral mandate which led Temer to the post of Vice-President were names of the PSDB and DEM parties who had been defeated in 2014 and who had led the coup, as well as many of those subject to investigation in corruption scandals. Nevertheless, Temer took office with the promise to implement the plan of government imposed by the PMDB, “A Bridge to the Future”, later complemented by the document, “Socetial Crossing”, whose impacts were described and analyzed in chapter 4, without passing scrutiny at the ballot box.
With Temer’s taking over the Presidency, various resistance movements began to put pressure on the putschist government. Sectors linked to culture principally, protested actively against the interim President and his decision to withdraw the status of Ministry from the Culture portfolio. In reaction to this, various occupations spread throughout Brazil, especially in the State offices of the National Arts Foundation (Funarte), the body responsible for carrying out public policies for the sector. The offices of the National Institute for Historical and Artistic Heritage (Iphan) and of the Ministry of Culture (MinC) itself were occupied. Another grass roots movement that applied intense pressure was the Homeless Worker’s Movement (MTST), which even camped out in front of Michel Temer’s house and demonstrated in front of the Presidency office, both in São Paulo.
The Ministers nominated by Temer were:
||Fabiano Medina Osorio
||Blairo Maggi (PP)
||Ilan Goldfajn (Banco Itau)
|Chief of Staff
||Eliseu Padilha (PMDB)
||Bruno Araujo (PSDB)
|Science and Technology and Communications
||Gilberto Kassab (PSD)
||Marcelo Calero (PSDB)
|Audit, Transparency and Control
||Mendonça Filho (DEM)
||Raul Jungmann (PPS)
|Social and Agricultural Development
||Osmar Terra (PMDB)
||Leonardo Picciani (PMDB)
||Henrique Meirelles (PSD)
||Helder Barbalho (PMDB)
|Justice and Citizenship
||Alexandre de Moraes (PSDB)
||Sarney Filho (PV)
|Mines and Energy
||Fernando Bezerra Filho (PSB)
||Romero Juca (PMDB)
||Jose Serra (PSDB)
||Ricardo Barros (PP)
|Secretariat for Government
||Geddel Vieira Lima (PMDB)
|Secretariat of Institutional Security
|Work and Social Security
||Ronaldo Nogueira (PTB)
||Mauricio Quintella (PR)
||Henrique Alves (PMDB)
On May 23rd 2016, conversations were published between Romero Juca of the PMDB for Roraima, one of the main allies of Michel Temer, and the then Minister of Planning and ex-President of Petrobras Transporte S.A (Transpetro) Sergio Machado, recorded by him as part of a plea bargain agreement. The content was explosive and made the coup more obvious still. In the conversations, Juca and Machado referred to the impeachment as necessary to change the government and to halt the bloodletting caused by Operation Lava Jato. According to Machado, “the easiest solution was to place Michel” (Folha de S. Paulo, 2016). Thus, according to what was said in the recordings, Temer would take power in an overall national agreement involving the Supreme Court to halt everything and to limit its effects. According to Juca, Justices of the Federal Supreme Court had affirmed that as long as Dilma was in government, nothing could be stopped.
The impact of the recordings was huge, but not enough to halt the coup. The recordings, as revealed by the media, had been held by the Federal Attorney-General since March 2016, therefore whilst the impeachment process was already underway. They were made public only after the President had been ousted, because if this had been done before they would clearly have had an impact on the desired outcome. Recordings were also leaked of Renan Calheiros and Jose Sarney, attacking Lava Jato and showing their apprehension on the impact of plea bargain agreements and investigations of the entire political class. However, these leaks only served to show the conspiring and to weaken the interim government. Romero Juca resigned, and another two Ministers fell: Fabiano Silveira, nominated by Temer to the Ministry of Transparency, who appeared in one of the recordings attacking Operation Lava Jato, and Henrique Alves, nominated to the Ministry of Tourism, whose name was involved in accusations of receiving bribes, according to the plea bargain by Sergio Machado.
Whilst the interim government applied its neo-liberal agenda, abolishing rights and liquidating social programmes, as shown in other chapters of this book, the impeachment proceeded in the Senate. In accordance with the procedure defined by the Federal Supreme Court in April 2016, the process should go on with the same rules used in the impeachment of ex-President Fernando Collor de Mello in 1992. Thus, the then Chief Justice of the Federal Supreme Court, Ricardo Lewandowski, chaired the Federal Senate to guide the process. A long phase of witness testimony was begun with accusation and defence. In the midst of this stage, the expert testimony in the Senate was notable exempting Dilma of responsibility in the emission of the budgetary supplementation decrees. According to the testimony:
“From the analysis of the data, the documents and the information relating to the Safra Plan, no deliberate acts were identified of the President of the Republic which had contributed directly or immediately to delays in the payments to take place.” (Federal Senate, 2016)
The farce of the judgement, which should have entailed the right to a full defence, was demonstrated by the complete lack of interest of most of the Senators in hearing the witnesses for the defence, or even in the expert testimony in the Senate. According to the report by Gustavo Maia on the UOL portal, at one point the opposition Senators stopped asking questions of witnesses in order to sped up the process (UOL, 2016b). Witnesses for the defence were called such as the economist Luiz Gonzaga Belluzzo, ex-Minister of Finance Nelson Barbosa, law professors Ricardo Lodi Ribeiro and Geraldo Prado. On the 28th of July, Jose Eduardo Cardozo filed the closing arguments for the defence to the Special Commission for Impeachment to the Senate, which emphasized the legality of the decrees emitted and the lack of participation of Dilma Rousseff in their emission, as the expert testimony had already affirmed to the Senate. However, ignoring the arguments for the defence, the Commission recommended by 14 votes to five, that Dilma be judged. The report was approved in plenary, by 59 votes to 21, leading the impeachment to its final phase. There, the legitimately elected President Dilma Rousseff would have the opportunity to defend herself before the 81 Senators.
On August 29th 2016, Dilma appeared before the Senate to make her defence. The President reaffirmed her commitment to Brazilian democracy and to the liberal democratic state of law. Remembering history and the coup attempts against Getulio Vargas, Juscelino Kubitschek and João Goulart, the President said:
“Whenever the interests of sectors of the economic and political elite have been lost at the ballot box and there are no legal reasons for legitimate change of power, conspiracies were plotted resulting in a coup d’etat. [… ] Now, once again, when the interests of sectors of the economic and political elite have been hurt at the ballot box, we find we are at the breaking point of democracy”. (Rousseff, 2016b)
The President showed in her speech that the charges made against her were mere excuses to overthrow an elected government and to put in its place a putschist and usurper government, to destroy the gains won by the Brazilian people in the 13 years of governments by the PT. She reaffirmed that the coup was the reaction of the opposition, in an anti-democratic manner, to overturn the elections of 2014:
“Ever since the announcement of the election results, the parties that supported the defeated candidate in the elections did everything to impede my taking office and the stability of my government. They said the elections were fraudulent, seeking an audit of the ballots, they questioned my election accounts, and after my taking office, sought facts by any means that might justify the rhetoric for an impeachment process.” (Rousseff, 2016b)
Dilma also explained the intense sabotage suffered by her government, whose economic agenda against the crisis was dismantled by Eduardo Cunha, putting forward draft laws that would explode public spending and compromise any attempt to tweak the economy. She also showed that despite the sabotage, the Congress was paralyzed in 2016, impeding the government from implementing any kind of agenda. This showed her character, of not complying with anything improper of becoming involved in trade-offs to save her own mandate, and working against corruption:
“If I had been complicit with the impropriety and with that which is worst in Brazilian politics, as many now seem to not have the least problem in doing so, I would not be running the risk of being condemned unjustly. Those who are complicit with the immoral and the illegal, do not have the respectability to govern Brazil. Those who act to avoid or postpone judgement of someone who is accused of enrichment at the costs of the Brazilian State and of the people who pay their taxes, will sooner or later end up having to pay the price of lack of commitment to ethical behaviour before society and before history.” (Rousseff, 2016b)
The accusation was therefore weak and motivated by political ends, not legal ones. The decrees had obeyed all the legal rules, abiding by the Constitution and the Budgetary Directives Law. According to the President, the Federal Accounts Court changed their position on the issues after the publishing of the decrees: “The Federal Accounts Court recommended approval of the accounts of all Presidents who had issued decrees identical to those I issued. They never raised any technical problem or made the interpretation they came to have after I signed these acts.” (Rousseff, 2016b).
The disregard for due legal process, the presumption of innocence and the right to a defence were covered by Dilma. It was absurd, according to her, that judges affirmed that “the conviction is no more than a question of time”, as their opinions were already formed. Thus, the legal form only served to justify an illegitimate process. After the speech, the President answered questions from the Senators for 13 hours of cross-examination.
The next day, Jose Eduardo Cardozo presented the final defence of the President, questioning the Senators about what history would say about the conviction. Cardozo affirmed that he hoped that in the future a Chief Justice would ask that a public apology be accepted in the name of the Brazilian State for having convicted an innocent woman to the penalty of political death:
“I ask God that, if Dilma is convicted, a new Chief Justice has the dignity to make a public apology to her; if she is alive, to her, and if deceased, to her daughter and grandchildren. That history will absolve Dilma Rousseff if you wish to convict her. But, if you wish to do Justice to those who suffered violence from the State, judge by justice. Do not accept that our country suffers a parliamentary coup, so that Dilma does not suffer the penalty of political death.” (Cardozo, 2016)
On the 31st of August 2016, by 61 votes in favour and 20 against, the Senate definitively removed Dilma Rousseff from the Presidency of the Republic. In a kind of mea-culpa, the Senators did not withdraw Dilma’s political rights, allowing her to continue to hold posts of public office. At 4 p.m. on the same day, Michel Temer was sworn into office as President of Brazil: and the coup d’etat was duly effected. Two days after the impeachment, the Federal Senate approved a law to ease the rules for issuing supplementary credit, freeing the coming Presidents to use the same “fiscal manoeuvres” that led to Dilma being convicted.
- It was later proven that Cunha had bank accounts in Switzerland to receive bribe monies.
- In 2014, sectors of the PMDB were already defending support for Aécio Neves, as reported by Agencia Brasil, EBC: “Bancada do PMDB esta dividida no apoio a Dilma and Aécio” (Agência Brasil, 2014)
- “They accuse me of having issued six supplementation decrees, six supplementary credit decrees and in doing so, of having committed a crime against the Budgetary Law. This is false. It is false, as the decrees complied with authorizations provided for in law. They deal with the crime as an everyday act of management. They accuse me of delaying payments of the Safra Plan. This is false. I decided nothing in this regard. The law does not require my participation in the execution of this Plan. My accusers have not even been able to say what I have done, what act? What act? Besides this, there was nothing left to be paid, there is no debt. In a democracy, a legitimate mandate of an elected President can never be broken because of legitimate budgetary management acts. Brazil can not be the first to do this” (Rousseff, 2016).
- The following Senators voted against the Impeachment: Angela Portela (PT), Armando Monteiro (PTB), Elmano Ferrer (PTB), Fatima Bezerra, Gleisi Hoffmann and Humberto Costa (all three of the PT), João Capiberibe (PSB), Jorge Viana and Jose Pimentel (both of the PT), Katia Abreu (PMDB), Lidice da Mata (PSB), Lindbergh Farias (PT), Otto Alencar (PSD), Paulo Paim and Paulo Rocha (both of the PT), Randolfe Rodrigues (REDE), Regina Sousa (PT), Roberto Muniz (PP), Roberto Requião (PMDB) and Vanessa Grazziotin (PCdoB).
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